Donald Trump’s election was a populist shattering of the neoliberal consensus:
But GOP lawmakers were unmoved by this stunt. On Wednesday afternoon, Republican senators Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander confirmed that their party plans to take a vacation before giving working-class families some peace of mind about their children’s health coverage:
“We have asked Senator McConnell not to offer this week our legislation,” the senators, who are sponsoring a bill that provides funding intended to stabilize the individual insurance market, said in a statement. “Instead, we will offer it after the first of the year when the Senate will consider the omnibus spending bill, the Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization, funding for Community Health Centers, and other legislation that was to have been enacted this week.”
On January 2, Alabama will stop allowing new children to enroll in its CHIP program. Connecticut and Colorado will shutter their programs on January 31, if Washington does not provide new funds before then.
Meanwhile, other states are already wasting money and personnel hours on contingency plans for CHIP’s demise. Last month, The Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey reported that West Virginia had stopped pushing eligible families to sign up for the program, a development that could lead to many more low-income children going without coverage, even if the program gets reauthorized in early January: If states don’t spend time and money spreading awareness of the program, many parents will fail to take advantage of it.
So, why is the GOP inflicting needless harm on a popular program that most Republicans claim to support? The deficit, of course.
While congressional Republicans were willing to add $1.5 trillion to the debt, so as to pay for corporate tax cuts, they have refused to appropriate the $75 billion required to reauthorize CHIP for five years. Instead, they insist on financing children’s health care with cuts to other people’s medical benefits. House Republicans have already passed a bill that that raises money for CHIP by throwing an estimated 700,000 people off of Obamacare, for falling behind on their premium payments. That legislation has (predictably) stalled in the Senate. Democrats, for their part, have evinced little interest in transferring a few billion dollars from low-income adults to low-income children, while Republicans are transferring trillions of dollars to the wealthiest people in America.
It’s worth noting that CHIP is vastly more popular than the GOP’s health-care and tax bills — even among Republican voters. Over two decades in operation, CHIP has slashed the uninsured rate for American children by more than half, while improving their educational outcomes and fortifying their families’ economic security. Crucially, Republicans aren’t ideologically bound to deny these results; CHIP is the one part of the safety net that their party is supposed to like: It’s cheap, targeted at children with working parents, and the legislation that created it is covered in Republican fingerprints.
But America simply cannot afford to put another $75 billion onto its credit card. Republicans have always believed this.
Clearly, this is all part of the long-term Republican plan to enact single payer!